Toddlers are constantly in motion. They’re like little balls of energy. But what happens when all that running around leads to injury?
Cuts, scrapes, and burns are common in small children, as are injuries to the head, bones and joints. It can be scary anytime your child gets hurt, but some injuries are more severe than others and require more care.
In this episode of San Diego Health, host Susan Taylor and guest Livpreet Singh, DO, a pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Eastlake in Chula Vista, discuss which childhood injuries can be treated at home, when kids need to see a doctor, and when a visit to the emergency room would be necessary.
Dr. Singh also provides tips to help avoid these common injuries in the first place like baby-proofing your home, installing slow-closing doors and cabinets, setting the water heater to stay below 120 degrees, and making sure kids wear a helmet when riding a bike or scooter.
In regard to the skin, abrasions, cuts and burns are common childhood injuries.
In those cases, what you would do is first remain calm, put your child in a very safe area. Assess the area. If there is any overlying cloth or clothing, remove that.
Run the burn, or laceration, or abrasion, under lukewarm water and clean that area. Afterward take a look at it.
In regard to burns, if there are any blisters in that area, you would want to go see a medical professional, just to have a second look and make sure that there’s no treatment that’s needed. If there are no blisters for the burn, you typically can manage this at home.
In regard to abrasions and cuts, it depends on how deep it is. If you’re seeing the muscle underneath, or bone, then they need to be seen at the emergency room.
But if it’s a very superficial abrasion or cut, that’s something that you can manage at home. You would just want to ensure that you clean it daily, and then put an ointment on top. Typical ointments that people use are Neosporin, Aloe Vera, vitamin E serum. That helps with the skin healing process.
In regard to scald injuries, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends setting your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, or below. If you don’t have control over your water heater, you can use an anti-scald device on your faucet. It automatically turns off if it gets too hot. That in itself prevents a lot of unintentional burns.
Check for any obvious deformities. if you notice that a bone is poking out where it’s not supposed to be poking out, go see a medical professional. But if it’s just a little bit bruised, a little bit swollen, continue to monitor that at home, put ice packs in the area and allow it to rest. If it continues for three to five days after the inciting event, then you would want to go and see your doctor and make sure that there’s no underlying fracture.
Go to the emergency room.
In regard to bikes, you would want to make sure that they’re wearing helmets and pads over their elbows and their knees as well.
In regard to crush injuries, meaning that they get their fingers slammed by a door, things of that sort, now they have slow closing doors and cabinets that you can install into your home. The other thing, whenever you’re closing a door, just be vigilant of where your child is. Just keep one eye on your child while closing, just to ensure that they’re not in that vicinity.
For head injuries, it’s important to assess the mechanism of the injury. What was the height of the fall? Did they have any loss of consciousness? Are they having persistent vomiting?
Persistent vomiting, loss of consciousness, any altered mental status or abnormal behavior, those are red flag signs, and you need to go see a professional in the emergency room.
I highly encourage parents that as soon as your child is mobile, get on their level and see what could be potential hazards in the home.
Make sure that you have child locks for every cabinet and drawer, putting stair gates, not only at the bottom, but also at the top as well. Make sure that all the areas that they could potentially get into, do not have anything that’s hazardous that could cause them an unintentional injury.
For accidental poisoning, I recommend to all my parents to put in the number for poison control on their speed dial. The number is 1-800-222-1222.
Whatever they got into, whether it be a medication or another object, have that on hand. That way you can tell the medical professional on the other line exactly what they took, and the strength of it in regard to medication. That way they can properly assess the severity of the ingestion.
For foreign objects, I recommend that any toy that can be pulled apart, supervise your child when they’re playing with it. Supervise also anything that has a battery in it because battery ingestions are very hazardous.
In regard to choking on foods, make bite-sized pieces of whatever food they’re eating at that time. Boil or heat the food, so it becomes soft in consistency and they can’t choke on it.
I would recommend every parent to be CPR-trained just in case of an emergency. That way, you can assess the situation and take the initial steps, while the medical professionals are getting to the scene.
You can go to the Red Cross website, and look up where they provide those classes, whether it be CPR or first aid. Those are good resources for you to find those classes.
Lightly edited for clarity
Watch the San Diego Health video with Susan Taylor and Dr. Singh discussing how to treat common toddler injuries at home and knowing when to seek emergency care.